As a life coach, I often get questions from participants who have gone through my course. Some of these questions lend themselves to a great article. Here are some questions from a previous participant who is struggling with his spiritual development processes.
HOW TO FIND TIME TO MEDITATE IN A BUSY LIFE
He asked about meditating and in his busy life, finding time for this practice can be a challenge. We know that meditating has great stress-related relief benefits that help the mind-body cope with a demanding and often chaotic world. I've gone through many phases with the practice of meditation and have come to the conclusion that even if you sit at your desk and close your eyes for a couple of minutes, you are communing with God – higher power, energy, the field of all possibility – whatever you want to call it and even for a couple of minutes, this can be helpful to your inner world.
Our spiritual teacher, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Ramamurti S. Mishra, MD). used to say that when you pray, you're talking to God and when you meditate (are silent) God is talking to you. I use to be very strict with my meditating practice but am no longer as I see it as a tool that is there to serve me and not the other way around. Even in your everyday working life, if you are present, you're meditating; There are many forms of meditating not just the 'sitting' form my teacher use to say. Mindfulness is truly a great meditation.
Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths in and out and tap into that all-encompassing energy that is always there around us and makes no demands on us – just remember its presence and it will feed your spirit – that is its job. You don't have to work at it or make it a ritual or even a practice if you want to – just close the eyes and be silent.
AGES, STAGES, PHASES IN LIFE
In my life coaching teaching, I say that there are different ages, stages, and phases in our life. Each of these stages calls upon different aspects of ourselves.
The first stage is mainly taking in content. You stay there until you get sick and tired of taking in other people ideas. At this point, you move into the second stage. At the second stage you are taking in AND putting out. Then the third stage is doing as you like.
At the second stage, you have to pay attention to the phases in this stage because you can get burned out by putting out too much. At this point, you start negotiating with life – so much taking in and so much putting out – how to negotiate with it and maintain some balance within? That is the challenge we all face.
I'm at the third stage: you take in and give out for your own pleasure, amusement and to keep entertained. At this developmental stage, generally later in life, one hopes that the 'self' feels satisfied with what has been accomplished but still likes to stay alert and aware by challenging yourself and your ideas from time to time and by revising your spiritual interests.
To be open for what life has to teach us at every stage we go through and at all the phases in these stages and no matter what our age is, we have to determine where the in-and-out is out of balance – that is natural as life is dynamic and not static. No matter what stage, phase, or age we're in, we need to set some boundaries or some kind of formula for ourselves.
AS THE PENDULUM SWINGS
How much do I give out this week, this month, and this year and how much do I take in and how much do I rest. Negotiate with yourself. That is what I do with myself. Think in terms of yoga poses – stretch and create tension in the muscle group. Pause. Then rest. Repeat: create tension, pause, rest, tension, pause, rest. In the resting state, we repair the nervous system which makes it stronger to cope with more stress and tension in our life. Rest is important to maintain a good balance. Such is the nature of life – it is like a pendulum and swings in one direction and then the other looking for the balance or optimal homeostasis but it is always moving or should be. If it is not moving, it is like the body / mind becomes lethargic and dull and rusts out – heading toward death and dying. If it is always moving, too much, too fast, and too often, then it burns out and we snap and burn out.
We need to find the right balance for ourselves at all ages, stages and phases of our life. It is a perpetual challenge.
This year started with a bang and I felt so jam-packed and full of too many details, demands, and pressures along with my husband's medical issues. I look back at it and wonder how I coped.
So when September arrived and we came down to our seasonal cottage, my daughter asked me what will I do and I said NOTHING. Boy this was a challenge for me as I am a 'doing' machine but it is something I can learn to do or remember how to do; I just have to watch the mind and its judgment about doing 'nothing' because after my first husband, David, died, I defined myself by 'doing'.
Life is always a great teacher and we are always learning something about ourselves. The Awakened Life – it can be tiring but would we want it any other way?
FIND SOME FORMULA
An example of a formula – when we were in India in the late 80's we saw a lot of poverty and we struggled with giving money or not giving money until Bill said we'll put so many rupees in our pocket each day and when they are gone, they are gone. We decided to give money when someone triggered an awareness in us – that was our condition – a smile, a door open, a blessing – then we gave until the money was gone and then we didn't feel guilty about not giving any more – we used our formula and we felt good about what we did and did feel feel guilty about the rest of the day – tomorrow was another day and we'd start over. So set up some formula for yourself with taking in and giving out.
When asked by a participant in the life coach training, "with so many opportunities for healing, growth, and personal development, how do you chose or know which ones to do?" My response to this question was, "The way you know which ones to do is by doing them. The ones you do are the ones you want to do and the ones you don't do, you just don't get around to doing them or you do them sporadically. Pay attention to what you are doing. Ask yourself why you are doing those things that you do regularly.
I like to exercise so I am pretty good about working out. I meditate 'sometimes' because I am not as charmed by the practice as I use to be but I feel that I 'should' meditate. The motivators for exercise and meditation are very different at this stage in my life but it helps to know and understand the 'why' of what we do.
Then I was asked, "How do you suggest narrowing down activities to not just keep learning, but to live a life more aligned with my values / vision? I'm noticing I also get derailed trying to please others requests, and put those before myself. " And I replied, "What are your values / vision – understand the underlying principles out of which you operate – what are they?"
If you find that you spend too much time pleasing others, ask yourself what you get out of it. If this brings you personal satisfaction but you're concerned about time management or personal achievement, and then monitor it.
As for getting derailed, a principle you can set up for yourself is to allow yourself some of that (pleasing others) and just know that that is what you do – cut it off when it becomes too much.
SELF CARE IS A PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
Self care dictates that we are responsible for what we take in and what we put out – there is no one out there who manages us – we are self-managers and self-regulators – when the pendulum goes too far in one direction, turn around and go in the opposite direction – look for the optimum amount of give and take that works for you.
Make that a principle – a formula – then let that be OK. If it is not OK, then keep investigating and learning. What else can we do? We don't want to live someone else's principles or formula or way of life – that is not awakened but robotic.
When your body or mind sends you a message that you feel burnt out then you know that the pendulum has swung too far to one side and that is not in harmony with your balanced self – so swing it back. And so it goes in life – we are always negotiating and striving to maintain balance and homeostasis and that process keeps us alive and active and engaged. Isn't life wonderful that way?
We can only learn more about what works for us and what does not work for us and to be a curious observer of the process is enlightenment – fascinating stuff.
When, Bill, my husband got his cancer diagnosis, I had to 'look' at myself and all the wonderful things I have said over the years about being strong and coping with life and I was challenged to see how I would 'adjust' to this new thing in our life that impacted it in ways that I still don't know so I wondered how I would show up.
Everything as we know is our teacher. Dr. Mishra used to say, even your dog is your guru – everything teaches us about ourselves. Our struggles often open doors to our enlightenment and joy; Isn't that the truth.